Solving the housing crisis, one politician at a time

On 17 March, PBHA joined over 2300 people from 300 organisations at an inspiring rally to deliver the message to politicians that solving the housing crisis must be a priority. Here’s a summary of what we heard, and why we’re supporting the Homes for Britain campaign.
 
The rally was coordinated by Homes for Britain, a national campaign calling on politicians from every party to commit to ending the housing crisis within a generation .The campaign is based on the premise that everyone has the right to a decent, affordable home but the UK’s failure to build enough housing has resulted in a spiralling crisis, in which more and more people from all walks of life struggle to afford keep a roof over their heads, or become homeless.
 
Activists, journalists and speakers from the housing sector spoke eloquently and energetically about the growing impact of the housing shortage on individuals and communities across the UK, while representatives from five major political parties offered up their plans for tackling the crisis.
 
The case for change
 
It is so much harder for people to thrive without a decent affordable home, said Bishop James Langstaff, chair of Housing Justice in the House of Lords, outlining the impact of spiralling housing costs on health, education, relationships. Housing is the essential building block for everything else, observed Miriam Ahmed of the Homeless Youth Parliament.
 
The market has failed to provide enough housing, and instead created huge inequality. The ‘disgrace’ that 93,000 children are homeless starkly illustrates of the housing crisis, and its long-term inter-generational impacts, noted film-maker Ken Loach. Houses have become investments not homes, forcing people to move away from their family networks as they are priced out of the communities they grew up in.
 
Calling for one million new affordable social homes, the TUC’s Frances O’Grady said that the UK’s ‘expensive’ and ‘dysfunctional’ housing policy needs reform. But first Britain must rediscover the optimism and ability to change.
 
Housing will shoot up the political agenda over the next few years as young people struggle more and more, predicts political commentator Owen Jones.
 
The refusal to act on housing is an issue of political will – we can change this if we keep at it, said Campbell Robb, CEO of housing and homelessness charity Shelter.
 
What the politicians said
 
Representatives from five major political parties attended the rally. Here’s what they said their party will do to solve the housing crisis if they come into power after the general election on 7 May:
• Conservatives (Grant Shapps):  said they would commit to providing detailed plans – which would include building more council homes – within a year.
• Green Party (Caroline Lucas): would implement smart rent controls and invest in more council and social homes.
• Labour Party (Hilary Benn):  would release public land and provide finance for building new homes.
• Liberal Democrats (Ed Davey): recognise the need for state intervention in housing and would build 10 new garden cities, and reduce the Right to Buy subsidy.
• UKIP (Nigel Farage):  would promote housing developments on brownfield land and limit immigration.
 
Why PBHA supports Homes for Britain
 
PBHA is supporting Homes for Britain because the lack of affordable homes affects the most vulnerable in society, our clients. The sale of council homes without replacing like for like has resulted in less affordable accommodation our tenants. The lack of social long term housing has pushed tenants into the private rented sector for housing.
 
But it is incredibly hard to access re-housing once PBHA tenants are ready for independent living. The demand for accommodation in central London is spiralling: Private sector rents increased 7% last year, they are expected to increase 51% in the next 10 years to over £500 per week. This is not affordable for our tenants.
 
Tenants can only realistically afford rents in Outer London boroughs, and this means breaking links and connections with friends, family and social networks, it may mean changing college or a job. The social network we work to help tenants build up to help in their recovery and independence could be at risk, and then the tenant is at risk of isolation and their re-housing failing.
 
PBHA supports Homes for Britain calling for no further extension of Right to Buy and some control over private rent levels in central London to protect the most vulnerable.